LegGov researchers Fariborz Zelli and Karin Bäckstrand from the political science departments of Lund University and Stockholm University hosted the workshop together with Philip Schleifer from University of Amsterdam.

20 scholars from 10 countries contributed innovative papers and engaged in a systematic analysis of legitimacy in an increasingly complex climate governance landscape. Participants included researchers from the International Scientific Advisory Board of LegGov, such as Robert Keohane and Steven Bernstein. Other keynote speakers were Liliana Andonova and Peter Haas,

In his keynote address, Robert Keohane distinguished five criteria for the legitimacy of global governance institutions: facilitating the production of a global public good, broad participation (in rule-making and implementation), fairness standards, epistemic virtues and accountability.

The workshop was organized in three sessions: different dimensions of legitimacy in polycentric climate governance, causes and consequences of legitimacy in this institutional complexity, and new directions for researching legitimacy to account for this changing context.

In the first session, ”Taking Stock”, participants unpacked different concepts and understandings of legitimacy and how these relate to the emerging polycentricity of climate governance. This included the dichotomy between normative and sociological legitimacy, i.e. the distinction whether some form of rule can be determined as legitimate based on stipulated normative criteria or whether it is perceived or believed to be legitimate. Benjamin Faude and Felix Große-Kreul, for instance, argued that the emerging institutional complex on climate change creates an cross-institutional context of normative legitimacy

A second pairing discussed was the contrast between input and output legitimacy, i.e. assessing legitimacy based on procedural values (e.g. transparency, accountability and participation) or based on policy impact (e.g. distributive justice, performance and effectiveness). In her session keynote, Liliana Andonova, targeted the input level, examining the different procedures, interest networks and power constellations that lead to the emergence of the institutional complex on clean energy. Harro van Asselt and Sander Chan, by contrast, scrutinised the output dimension of legitimacy with their study on the performance of transnational climate initiatives from the perspective of the Global South.

Topics of Session 2 on “Sources and Consequences” related to Theme 2 in LegGov as it covered strategies of legitimation or de-legitimation. In his keynote, Peter Haas addressed potential limits to the legitimation of epistemic institutions like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He observed that scientists and those who design science-based institutions face several tensions, since they have to satisfy the legitimacy expectations of multiple and possibly competing audiences.

Other scholars focused on potential sources of legitimacy for specific elements of polycentric climate governance. Fabian Guy Neuner identified public opinion as an essential source of legitimacy, conducting a survey experiment on two private governance initiatives, the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Clara Brandi and colleagues developed a set of criteria to identify the legitimacy sources of so-called climate clubs, i.e. plurilateral initiatives that are predominantly set up by national governments.

Another key question in this session were the consequences of polycentricity for the legitimacy of individual institutions or an entire institutional complex. Thomas Hickmann concentrated on one of these consequences, the changing role of the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The third and final session brought together papers and discussions about new normative directions for the research on legitimacy in a complex governance landscape. A topic regarded innovative ways to enhance legitimacy. In her session keynote, Karin Bäckstrand scrutinised how orchestration in the UNFCCC can be made more democratically legitimate. David Gordon, Steven Bernstein and Matthew Hoffmann also addressed the shifting nature of accountability for urban climate governance. They drew attention to the evolution of cross-institutional spaces as they may offer cities a means of securing global legitimacy and recognition from important external audiences and of gaining access to sources of finance and technical assistance.

Across these three sessions, participants flagged a number of overarching questions that merit further scholarly focus. One was whether legitimacy is actually a desirable concept in a polycentric architecture, or whether polycentricity reinforces trade-offs between legitimacy and effectiveness. A more radical concern was whether we, as scholars or practitioners, can do something at all. Is it possible to induce sensible responses to improve legitimacy in light of the many unintended consequences that a complex system may entail? Finally, all participants agreed on the need for innovative theoretical and methodological approaches that do justice to the changing character of legitimacy, its sources and its consequences in an increasingly complex institutional environment. The workshop demonstrated the great relevance and potential of the emerging research programme on legitimacy in polycentricity. As one proceeding of this successful workshop, the organisers will review the state of the art in detail for a book chapter for the INOGOV synthesis volume Governing Climate Change: Polycentricity in Action (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2018).  

Fariborz Zelli and Karin Bäckstrand

* http://www.inogov.eu/